Fat transfer is a cosmetic procedure usually performed on the face to give it a plumper, more youthful appearance. As people age, the fat underneath the skin becomes thin and the cheeks and areas around the eyes can appear sunken and drawn. Where the subcutaneous fat thins, wrinkles may also be more apparent. Even though wrinkles are on the surface, inserting fat under the skin may fill out the skin, causing wrinkles to become less visible.
Fat transfer, or fat grafting, replaces lost fat with fat taken from other areas of the body. Because the transferred fat belongs to the patient, the body accepts it without an allergic reaction. Fat may be taken from the thighs, for example, via liposuction and placed into the cheeks. The fat is placed using a micro-injection technique. No incisions are made to insert the fat, rather multiple small injections are made.
The procedure is done while the patient is under local anesthesia sometimes with a light oral sedative. Bruising, swelling and discomfort can occur, and the extent will vary according to the patient and the scope of the procedure performed. These effects will subside in a few days, and pain can be managed through medication. Patients can usually return to normal activities in a week.
The results of fat transfer last the longest when the fat is placed in areas with less movement, like the cheeks. Fat placed around the eyes may not hold up as well because the eye area is constantly moving during facial expressions.
In general, less than half the fat injected will stay where it was placed. The body will absorb much of it in the first three months following the procedure. The exact percentage of fat that remains varies according to technique used and the patient’s body, but estimates are between 35-60%. The remaining fat can last up to three years.